Everything else copyright © 2003-2020 Iowa State University, unless otherwise noted. Facts about robber flies. Most tachinid flies are larger than a house fly and noticeably more bristly, but they range in size from 2–20mm and across the family there is a tremendous variety of shapes, colors and degree of bristling (Fig. Note: An important thing here to note is – Gnats Bite but they do not sting like bees or wasps. From this table you can clearly see that – Buffalo and Sand Gnats bite whereas Fungus and Eye Gnats do not bite. Giant Robber Fly. Robber flies’ audacity is legendary; on the Internet, one can find many stories of robber flies attacking bees, wasps, large grasshoppers, even hummingbirds. Horse-flies or horseflies are true flies in the family Tabanidae in the insect order Diptera.They are often large and agile in flight, and the females bite animals, including humans, to obtain blood.They prefer to fly in sunlight, avoiding dark and shady areas, and are inactive at night. First, it induces sleep in the patient, making them more vulnerable to the bite of a tsetse fly. The insect doesn't live long once it reaches maturity. Required fields are marked *. horseflies and robber flies.) Find out all about horse fly bites, black fly bites, deer fly bites, and more. They will occasionally bite humans, but they are not blood feeders, and will only bite on accident or if provoked. Your donation to BugGuide will be matched up to $2500! The robber fly is the size of a grain of rice, but it could be described as the Top Gun of the fly world. Flies have two wings, while wasps have four. that was busy gathering nectar. Flies may be fun for cats to catch, but they can also be a problem. When cats have fly bites on their ears, a fly repellant cream may be used to deter the flies. The different species have their preferred habitats, but most are found in open places, including grasslands, old fields, openings in woods, marshes, and sunny areas near ponds and streams. Physically similar to drain flies, this species preys on mammals and reptiles. The predatory habits of robber flies, both as adults and larvae, tend to put them into the same “beneficial” category as lady beetles, lacewings, mantises, and assassin bugs, since they devour many pest insects, including insects that damage crops. Robber flies live in urban areas, forests and woodlands. They practice "extraoral digestion," which means they shoot enzymes into their prey to pre-digest it by liquifying the tissues. Nothing good could come of a bug sporting the name Cannibal and I was pretty certain I’d identified him correctly. The legs are reddish-brown and hairy. Flies cannot sting, and only certain flies bite (i.e. Contributors own the copyright to and are solely responsible for contributed content.Click the contributor's name for licensing and usage information. There are differences, of course, if one looks close. Most have a long, tapered abdomen, a rather humpbacked appearance, and spiny legs, and typically rest with wings folded down the back. Be careful if you plan to collect robber flies; they can inflict a painful bite if mishandled. During the day, it is possible to see a Robber Fly sitting on a fence, handrail, or garden box. The Giant Robber Flies get their name for a reason. Promachus hinei. Giant Robber Fly – Promachus sp. If you need expert professional advice, contact your local extension office. Then it uses the proboscis to suck out the liquid. Robber flies’ audacity is legendary; on the Internet, one can find many stories of robber flies attacking bees, wasps, large grasshoppers, even hummingbirds. The robber fly feeds on beetles, moths and butterflies, grasshoppers, wasps and bees, and other flies. This is one of the Giant Robber Flies in the genus Promachus. The name "robber flies" reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight. Robber flies of this size (probably 30-35mm) do not fly so fast you cannot follow them – plus they have a low buzzing-rustling sound that greatly aids in pursuit. Species vary in appearance and some mimic wasps and bees. The robber fly is the size of a grain of rice, but it could be described as the Top Gun of the fly world. After aerial chase, the large, buzzing Robber Fly overtakes its victim. Now, after understanding that some gnats do bite humans or animals, let’s see why they bite. Symptoms. The scary bug was a Robber Fly, also known as a Giant Robberfly, Bee Panther or Red-footed Cannibalfly. Robber flies are beneficial insects but if … True flies with no stinger and only one pair of wings, robbers are predators—and giant robbers will attack any insect that flies, including wasps, bees, grasshoppers and dragonflies. Robber flies are not normally considered pests. This is a truly awesome insect, and I relish each encounter I have with them. This is one of more than 20 similar-looking species of robber flies in genus Promachus (PROM-uh-kuss), all called giant robber flies or bee killers, that occur in North America north of Mexico. These giant robber flies are in the family Asilidae. If handled roughly, robber flies (at least the larger ones) can inflict a painful bite. Like all true flies, robber flies have only 2 wings. Also, flies usually have huge eyes and short antennae. The robber fly grabs its prey, stabs the insect with its mouth, “injects” enzymes into the insect causing paralysis and digestion of the insides of the insect, and the robber fly carries the prey off to drink him up. The legs are reddish-brown and hairy. In North America, there are about 13 species of robber flies in genus Ommatius. Between the two large compound eyes, the head is depressed, with three tiny eyes (ocelli) in that little valley. Would probably destroy human tissue a little bit as well. For that reason, Robber Flies are efficient predators, and they have a big appetite for bugs. The most commonly seen robber flies are dark in color, but some common types are orange. Eleven days after Ed Johnson posted this near miss. Their spiny legs allow them to grasp tightly and bristly faces protect them from prey that might try to bite back. Call 1-800-392-1111 to report poaching and arson, Asilidae (robber flies) in the order Diptera (flies). The Giant Robber Flies get their name for a reason. One noteworthy robber fly is the hanging thief which will feed on captured prey while hanging upside down from one leg. Horse-flies or horseflies are true flies in the family Tabanidae in the insect order Diptera.They are often large and agile in flight, and the females bite animals, including humans, to obtain blood.They prefer to fly in sunlight, avoiding dark and shady areas, and are inactive at night. While it has a short proboscis for injecting toxic saliva into prey, it doesn’t sting. When cats have fly bites on their ears, a fly repellant cream may be used to deter the flies. They often perch in conspicuous locations and make short flights chasing prey. Most species of snipe flies do not bite, but some do use their mouthparts to inflict irritating bites. Many make a distinctive buzz or rattle in flight. After aerial chase, the large, buzzing Robber Fly overtakes its victim. It often hangs from branches or objects near the ground, waiting to ambush passing prey. This family includes some of the largest and most distinctive insects in the order Diptera. As adults, robber flies dart from an exposed perch, snag, and stab insects with their pointy proboscis (tubelike mouth) as they fly past. Robber fly, (family Asilidae), any of about 6,750 species of predatory insects, worldwide in distribution, in the fly order, Diptera. Many other robber flies have black and yellow striped patterns and make loud buzzing sounds as they fly; these are bee and wasp mimics. The grublike larvae, as they move around in decaying organic materials, eat the eggs and larvae of other insects. Distribution. The long, cylindrical abdomen is cream colored with thick, black cross-bands. The scary bug was a Robber Fly, also known as a Giant Robberfly, Bee Panther or Red-footed Cannibalfly. Robber flies, also known as “assassin flies,” often resemble wasps or bees more than they do flies. Common Name: Robber Flies General Category: Predator Taxonomic Classification: Diptera: Asilidae Scientific Name: Many species Description Because of their large size and loud buzz when flying, these generalist predators are often confused with horse flies and other biting flies. The robberfly watches the air for movement from a perch. When they’ve grown large enough, they pupate and emerge as winged adults. For that reason, Robber Flies are efficient predators, and they have a big appetite for bugs. Both adults and larvae are predators on other insects. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx. Robber flies also have a distinctive hollow space between their 2 large compound eyes. Invertebrates are animals without backbones, including earthworms, slugs, snails, and arthropods. If handled roughly, robber flies (at least the larger ones) can inflict a painful bite. Select your preferred way to display the comments and click 'Save settings' to activate your changes. The Asilidae are the robber fly family, also called assassin flies. They are around an inch long, and the noise they make while flying is quite loud. A hallmark of this genus are the somewhat feathery, branching antennae. I recently photographed that same Giant Robber Fly in Pasadena, Texas on a bayou. Like most flies, they have short antennae and three small ocelli between their compound eyes. Facts about robber flies. Family Asilidae – Robber Flies Live adult female robber flies photographed in the wild at Winfield, Illinois, USA. Nonetheless, it makes stinging motions, brandishing genitalia at the tip of its abdomen as if it had a stinger. You might be seeing them yourself but simply not recognizing what they are. Robber flies are not picky. Common Name: Robber fly Scientific Name: Varies Order: Diptera Description: Adult stages are medium to large (3/8 to 1-1/8 inch) flies often observed on stems of plants, on the ground or flying low. They practice "extraoral digestion," which means they shoot enzymes into their prey to pre-digest it by liquifying the tissues. The spines lining the legs of robber flies undoubtedly help them snag prey, as do the small, forward-pointing bristles beside a flycatcher’s bill. Each species has a characteristic habitat—e.g., tree trunk, foliage, grass, low plant, dead twig, gravel, or beach sand. A giant robber fly particularly likes to eat bees. The most commonly seen robber flies are dark in color, but some common types are orange. During the day, it is possible to see a Robber Fly sitting on a fence, handrail, or garden box. Some, however, eat honey bees, as well as wasps and bumble bees. Some cats are susceptible to fly bites on their ears, especially cats that live outdoors. Flies may be fun for cats to catch, but they can also be a problem. Robber flies are a special group of predatory flies that possess stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the front of the head (mystax) that protects the robber fly’s head when it encounters struggling or stinging prey, and three simple eyes in a depression between two large compound eyes. It waits on a perch near flowers where it can see bees from above. Do giant robber flies bite? Tweet; Description: This is a large robber fly which is approximately 3/4 - 1 1 /2 inches in length. This large fly is feeding on a dragonfly. I'm wondering if Robberflies bite. If one lands on you, don’t slap it — instead, brush it lightly away. Some robber flies in the genus Laphria look almost exactly like bumble bees, complete with yellow fuzzy patches on their rather pudgy bodies. Body length (not including appendages): most are ½ to ¾ inch; varies with species; some reach 1¼ inches. Bumble Bee-Mimicking Robber Flies. But true flies always have the same characteristics: only one pair of wings (bees and wasps have two pairs); the second pair of “wings” on true flies are reduced to tiny knobby structures called halteres (which function like gyroscopes, assisting flight). However, the preferred habitat is one that is open, sunny, and mostly dry. Another is the red footed cannibal fly, which is a giant robber fly that has an abdomen with alternating yellow and black stripes, giving the insect the cool nickname of Panther fly. Because of their size and active habits, robber flies are one of the more common flies seen in Sydney. Their bite, adapted for their predatory lifestyle, injects digestive enzymes and a painful venom. Required fields are marked *. I got some nice shots - they get better towards the end, so fast-forward if you get bored! Common Name: Robber fly Scientific Name: Varies Order: Diptera Description: Adult stages are medium to large (3/8 to 1-1/8 inch) flies often observed on stems of plants, on the ground or flying low. Robber flies are large, bristly flies that catch their prey (usually other insects) mid-flight. The saliva isn't venomous, but Russo said the bite is really painful -- so it's not a good idea to mess with it. This nice big Giant Blue Robber Fly seemed pretty angry at being trapped inside the window, so I was a tad wary about catching it at first as I didn't know if it would try to bite me or not - I was blissfully unaware of it at the time, but they have a ferocious reputation for being quite aggressive! However, unlike bees and wasps, Robber Flies do not sting , and the " stinger " on this Robber Fly is actually a harmless ovipositor that she uses for laying eggs. Fly bites differ depending on the type of fly. No wonder. A gardener’s friend, indeed! They are around an inch long, and the noise they make while flying is quite loud. The scientific name of the robber fly pictured is Promachus vertebratus.The Greek background of the name promachos is “defender, champion.” Another translation says promachus means “challenger”, and yet another says “who leads into battle.” It injects a fluid into its victims that breaks down the muscle tissue. Find out all about horse fly bites, black fly bites, deer fly bites, and more. Learn more about fly bites here. Common Name: Robber Flies General Category: Predator Taxonomic Classification: Diptera: Asilidae Scientific Name: Many species Description Because of their large size and loud buzz when flying, these generalist predators are often confused with horse flies and other biting flies. The features upon which the family is founded and that support its monophyly (descent from a common ancestor) are rather subtle. Several species even mimic bumble bees, with black and yellow stripes. THE BITE: The mouth of the robber fly … Robber flies deliver a painful bite, so be careful with them. Find local MDC conservation agents, consultants, education specialists, and regional offices. The long, cylindrical abdomen is cream colored with thick, black cross-bands. Larval and adult robber flies are predators of other insects, and are famous for their ability to capture prey in the air. They don’t “go after” humans, but if you mishandle them, they might bite. Robber fly, (family Asilidae), also called assassin fly, any of about 6,750 species of predatory insects, worldwide in distribution, in the fly order, Diptera. They certainly bear little resemblance to house flies. Several species even mimic bumble bees, with black and yellow stripes. The latter gave me the willies. While it has a short proboscis for injecting toxic saliva into prey, it doesn’t sting. Fly bites can cause symptoms such as itching, redness, and swelling. Disclaimer: Dedicated naturalists volunteer their time and resources here to provide this service. Robber fly, (family Asilidae), also called assassin fly, any of about 6,750 species of predatory insects, worldwide in distribution, in the fly order, Diptera. Asilidae diversity can be attributed to their broad distribution, as most species tend to occupy a selective niche. Arthropods—invertebrates with “jointed legs” — are a group of invertebrates that includes crayfish, shrimp, millipedes, centipedes, mites, spiders, and insects. It can also transmit sleeping … The cuterebra, or botfly, is … Larvae are grublike and live in or on soil, among decaying materials, or in rotting wood. Although humans are never on its menu, a robber fly can inflict a painful bite if mishandled. Ignore the troll. Although they can inflict a painful bite if mishandled, robber flies pose little threat to people; they do, however, pose a significant threat to other insects. Either one, he knows it can’t sting and is having his fun, or two, he has mistakenly picked up a wasp that looks similar. I literally screamed. A few species of the genus Promachus are serious pests of apiaries because they feed on bees. Would probably destroy human tissue a little bit as well. Flies have two wings, while wasps have four. They don’t “go after” humans, but if you mishandle them, they might bite. Like other robberflies they are hunters, catching beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, and other flies, including each other! The robber fly is a predator of almost all flying insects. Fly bites differ depending on the type of fly. 1). Both are visual predators. After injecting the hapless meal with saliva that paralyzes and digests the prey’s bodily contents, the robber fly retires back to its perch and slurps up its insect smoothie. Many bee flies have elongated mouthparts that form a conspicuous beak, used for sucking nectar long-distance while hovering over flowers. Robber flies are conspicuous denizens of the desert southwest, but are common nearly everywhere. There are differences, of course, if one looks close. Sand Flies. Similar species: Some robber flies are so long and slender they resemble damselflies. Learn more about this and other robber flies on their group page. The grublike larvae, as they move around in decaying organic materials, eat the eggs and larvae of other insects. Because they feed on other insects, robber flies are generally considered beneficial. The eyes are beautiful iridescent green, sometimes with a reddish or coppery cast. I watched as this huge robber fly pounced on a honey bee. There may be as many as 10 million species of insects alive on earth today, and they probably constitute more than 90 percent all animal species. Asilidae adults attack wasps, bees, dragonflies, grasshoppe… Their appearance is somewhat frightening — after all, a big, hairy, humped flying insect isn’t usually a good thing. In particular, Proctacanthus milbertii has a nasty looking lance under his chin that looks quite capable. To do so, it releases a compound called prostaglandin D2, which does two things. Robber flies throughout Australia. Green-Eyed Robber Fly on Missouri Ironweed, Green-eyed robber fly (Promachus vertebratus) on Missouri ironweed (Vernonia missurica). There are many different types of robber flies, … Scared the CRAP outta me. A few species of the genus Promachus are serious pests of apiaries because they feed on bees. You will hear people saying Gnats sting but that’s completely wrong. It stabs other insects with its proboscis and injects them with venom, which liquefies their insides. Robber fly, (family Asilidae), any of about 6,750 species of predatory insects, worldwide in distribution, in the fly order, Diptera. Sand fly bites are very painful. Bumble Bee-Mimicking Robber Flies. While they rarely attack humans, they can inflict quite a nasty bite if provoked causing pain, swelling and redness at the bite site. Although they don't attack or bother humans, Robber Flies can bite quite painfully, so do not capture or pick up these flies with your bare hands. Robber flies are a special group of predatory flies that possess stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the front of the head (mystax) that protects the robber fly’s head when it encounters struggling or stinging prey, and three simple eyes in a depression between two large compound eyes. The tsetse fly bite is often painful and can cause red bumps or small red ulcers at the site of the bite. Most robber flies have a long, tapered abdomen, a rather humpbacked appearance, and spiny legs, and typically rest with wings folded down the back. This fly has black eyes, a light colored "beard" on the face and a brown thorax. The robber fly is a predator of almost all flying insects. The green robber fly is a large robber fly with distinctive tiger stripes on the abdomen. The bite injects a digestive saliva into the prey, immobilizing it, and the fly returns to its perch to finish its meal. Robber flies belong to the family Asilidae. Learn more about fly bites here. As their common name implies, robber flies have voracious appetites and feed on a vast array of other arthropods, which may help maintain a healthy balance between insect populations in various habitats (Joern and Rudd 1982, Shurovnekov 1962). The Asilidae are the robber fly family, also called assassin flies.They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx. Their bite, adapted for their predatory lifestyle, injects digestive enzymes and a painful venom. As with other robber flies, this species can inflict a painful bite if mishandled. The scientific name of the robber fly pictured is Promachus vertebratus.The Greek background of the name promachos is “defender, champion.” Another translation says promachus means “challenger”, and yet another says “who leads into battle.” Spotted by gatorfellows. Also in the Order Diptera (which includes all flies and mosquitoes) are the amazing robber flies. Females are larger than males. The robber fly’s deception goes even further. Once prey is spotted, it launches and grabs the insect in midair with spiny legs, then lands and uses its piercing mouthparts to drink the prey’s body fluids. The tsetse fly bite is often painful and can cause red bumps or small red ulcers at the site of the bite. Predators of the Robber Fly include other Robber Flies … I recently photographed that same Giant Robber Fly in Pasadena, Texas on a bayou. The face often appears bearded, and the mouthparts are a pointy knifelike proboscis for injecting saliva into prey. We facilitate and provide opportunity for all citizens to use, enjoy, and learn about these resources. This is one of the Giant Robber Flies in the genus Promachus. Spotted by gatorfellows. Robber fly insects are a mixed blessing to gardeners; if they’re seriously perturbed, they can inflict a painful bite, but they also help rid the garden of harmful pests like grasshoppers, other flies, wasps, leafhoppers, white grubs and pupating beetles. Although they do not sting, Robber Flies do bite and their saliva contains neurotoxins to quickly immobilize prey and proteolytic enzymes to dissolve its internal organs so that they can later be easily sucked out. One species is known to prey on Japanese beetles. The robber fly’s deception goes even further. Robber flies are found on all continents but Antarctica. The one pictured is called a bee-mimic robber fly… It can also transmit sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) to animals and humans. 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